There's tough competition among colleges and universities for top academic talent, and technology plays an important role in helping institutions set themselves apart from the pack.
IT managers say that today's students expect their college of choice to offer smart classrooms, ubiquitous wireless and access to distance learning. Beyond these campus essentials, many colleges also are devoting large portions of their budgets to real-life labs that mimic the experiences of working on a trading floor, in a newsroom or even at a pharmacy.
Kent State University in Ohio developed a simulated trading floor for its business students to provide a real-world setting in which they can learn their trade. “[Students] can implement models in real trading situations,” says Mark Holder, director of Kent State's Master of Science in Financial Engineering program. Everything about the lab gives the impression of a live trading floor, from the student traders' workstations to the Herman Miller Aeron chairs.
The IT underpinnings are no less impressive: “We have dual processor workstations with quad-graphics cards and lots of memory. We have trading applications and two major data platforms that provide live data, and we just put in $100,000 worth of new servers to support all this,” Holder says.
For more information about how institutions are building labs to train their students for the modern workplace, read "Real-World Learning."
Reaching the Students
At The University of Findlay, also in Ohio, school officials strongly believe that the university's efforts to deploy modern audio/video technology, including audience response systems, interactive whiteboards and other instructional technologies, gives them a recruiting advantage.
“It's very difficult to make a student want to come to you, but it's very easy to turn students away by not having the latest technology,” says Scott Trimmer, an academic technology specialist at the private institution.
Students now expect access to online courses, too, Trimmer says. He adds that many students need the flexibility that these courses offer so they can fit education into busy, complicated lives where they must balance the demands of jobs and family as well.
For more on how colleges and universities are using technology to recruit top academic talent, read "Tech Appeal."
Colleges also score points with prospective students when their administrative systems run efficiently. An electronic document management system dramatically improved customer service at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix.
Mark Johnston, Grand Canyon University's customer relationship management administrator, says all the university's records previously were stored on paper in a big file room. The college needed a way to access records so that when a call came in, “we could just bring up the information and handle the request in a simple phone call without putting the person on hold.”
The solution for Grand Canyon University was document management software combined with scanners. For more on how institutions are deploying workflow systems to improve administrative operations, read "IT's Paperless Vision."
Delivering high-quality service takes planning on the back end, which is why college IT staffs are also instilling a customer service mentality throughout their IT organizations.
“IT is now much more than computers, servers and networks,” says Walt Sevon, deputy CIO at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. “IT is now a series of services that the university community relies on, much like electricity and water.”
For more information about how colleges are building customer service into their IT organizations, read "At Your Service."
We hope these examples offer a road map for building the kind of IT organization that is instrumental in helping your college recruit both students and academic talent to make your institution thrive.
Editor in Chief